How to get into fashion with Jane Shepherdson

She's the woman who revamped Topshop, took on Philip Green (and won), and turned around the fortunes of affordable luxury womenswear brand Whistles. Fashion guru Jane Shepherdson shares her top five tips on how to get into the industry

She’s the woman who revamped Topshop, took on Philip Green (and won), and turned around the fortunes of affordable luxury womenswear brand Whistles.

As part of our Inspire & Mentor campaign, Marie Claire‘s deputy editor Charlotte Moore began by asking Jane Shepherdson just how she got to where she is today.

“I have had to work hard,” admitted Shepherdson, “I’m quite good at giving it my all when I’m at work and then learning to switch off at home. But I’ve had crisis of confidence in my career – we all have those.”

“There are a lot of Alpha males in the business and there can be a bullying culture in fashion,” says Shepherdson who famously challenged Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green.

“You have to giving as good as you get. It’s about reminding yourself of your achievements. having a vision and communicating it well”

Shepherdson is a tireless supporter of UK fashion (“I just love the British sense of style”) and tries to promote UK manufacturers: “We’d love to make more of our pieces in British factories but there just isn’t the capacity at the moment – I blame Thatcher!”

Readers got the chance to put questions to the fashion guru and one of the main topics of discussion was getting that first foot in the door.

“Work experience is still key and then it’s about knowing your stuff,” explained Shepherdson. “Fashion courses at LCF, Central St Martins, LCA have good reputations and the majority of our new recruits at Whistles are graduates – but this may start to change with hike in tuition fees.”

So what’s an aspiring fashionista to do?

We’ve distilled Jane Shepherdson’s top five tips on how to get into the industry:

1. First impressions count
“It seems obvious, but make a real effort to look as good as possible when you go for an interview – this is the fashion business and we are very image conscious!”

2. Look the part
“Think about which brand you are applying for and dress accordingly so that you look ‘on brand’. You don’t have to completely obscure your own style, but allow the interviewer to imagine you working in that brand.”

3.Have an opinion
“Think hard about what you might be asked – who are your favourite designers, and why, which brands do you think are doing a good job etc. Do your research, think about the target market and have a point of view.”

4. Do your homework
“Research fully the brand that you are applying to. Speak to their staff in their stores, look at their customers, know the range, think about what the brand are doing right and wrong and tell them in the interview. More rights than wrongs always goes down well though.”

5. Show your strengths
“Be very clear about your own strengths and weaknesses. We all have them, and it shows great self-awareness to be able to talk about them. If you are super-organised, but not so creative, then use that to your advantage, or alternatively if your real strength is your original ideas and designs, then make sure that you get that across in the best way.”

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